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Russia foreign minister calls for nationwide dialogue in Afghanistan after Taliban takeover

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

Russia has called for a national dialogue with the involvement of the entire political parties and figures in Afghanistan following the country’s takeover by the Taliban militant group amid the hasty withdrawal of US-led troops from the war-torn country.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that Moscow is in favor of a national dialogue involving all Afghan political forces, and also welcomed the Taliban's recent statement that they are ready for such dialogue.

"We welcome the Taliban's recent statement that they want to enter into a dialogue with other political forces in Afghanistan,” Lavrov said at a press conference after talks with his visiting Libyan counterpart, Najla Mangoush.

“A meeting has already been announced with the participation of Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the supreme council of national reconciliation, former president Hamid Karzai and the chairman of the Islamic Renaissance Party [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar," he added.

Lavrov said Moscow believes all of these forces have a desire to negotiate in the interests of the Afghan people, and that Russia will do everything in its power to promote talks and to ensure that such dialogue leads to concrete agreements.

The top Russian diplomat expressed his country’s readiness to resume "Moscow format" of talks on Afghanistan, underling that in addition to intra-Afghan forces, all five countries of Central Asia, along with China, Pakistan, India, Iran as well as the United States have participated in the Moscow format negotiations in the past.

"We have not made any official proposals yet, but the effectiveness of this group [in] following Afghan negotiations has always been recognized by everyone, and we will be prepared, if it is deemed appropriate, to resume this format," Lavrov said.

Russia began hosting the “Moscow format” consultations on Afghanistan in April 2017 with the aim of facilitating a national reconciliation process and securing peace in the conflict-ridden country.

China: Taliban "will not repeat the past"

In a related development, China said on Thursday that it believed the Taliban have changed and history would not repeat itself.

"The Taliban are more clear-headed and rational than last time when they were in power. We encourage and hope that the Taliban will uphold their positive stance and implement it," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, told reporters in a regular news briefing in Beijing.

The spokesperson added, “Although the situation in Afghanistan is not yet completely clear, we believe that the Taliban will not repeat the past.”

"We have also noticed there are some people who repeatedly stress they have no trust in the Taliban. I want to say that nothing in this world remains unchanged,” the Chinese diplomat said.

Hua said, “We advocate a comprehensive connection and development of authentic understanding to look at and treat the issues. We must not only look at the past, but also at the present. We must not only listen to what is being said, but also look at what is being done. If we don't keep up with the times, and instead stick to a fixed mindset and ignore developments in the situation, then we are being stubbornly foolish and there will not be a realistic ending."

Taliban: We facilitate safe-exit passage not just for foreigners but also to Afghans

Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban announced on Thursday that the group is "keeping their word" by providing foreign powers with their full support in evacuating their nationals from Kabul airport.

A Taliban official was quoted by Reuters as saying, “We are facilitating safe-exit passage not just for foreigners but also to Afghans."

"We are preventing any form of violent, verbal clash at the airport among Afghans, foreigners and Taliban members," he added.

The Afghan Taliban militant group recently intensified offensives and rapidly overran major cities. The militants laid siege to the capital, Kabul, on Sunday, forcing the sitting Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, to flee the country. The developments took place as US-led forces almost entirely withdrew from the country.

The unfolding events led to chaos and confusion, with thousands of Afghan civilians and diplomats swarming the Kabul airport to take evacuation flights.

In a first official press conference since the takeover of Kabul, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid congratulated the Afghan people on Tuesday for being “emancipated” from 20 years of occupation and vowed that the militant group would respect the rights of women, seek good relations with other countries, and not to exact retribution on former members of the Afghan military.

Russia, which has designated Taliban as a terrorist group, announced after the Taliban's first official presser that Moscow is in no hurry to recognize the Taliban as legitimate in Afghanistan, calling for an inclusive government to be established, involving all Afghan ethnic groups.

“We see encouraging signs from the Taliban who say they would like to have a government that includes other political forces,” Lavrov told reporters. “But it would be premature to say that we are going to start making some political steps unilaterally.”

The top Russian diplomat urged all ethnic groups in Afghanistan to convene for talks on the country’s future after the withdrawal of US forces.

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